Qatar World Cup organizers are poised to announce a total ban on the sale of alcohol around stadium sites in a shockingly late U-turn, just two days before the start of the tournament.
FIFA confirmed the decision in a statement Friday: “Following discussions between host country authorities and FIFA, a decision has been made to focus the sale of alcoholic beverages on the FIFA Fan Festival, other fan destinations and licensed venues, removing sales points of beer from Qatar’s FIFA World Cup 2022 stadium perimeters.”
Beer was originally to be sold within ticketed perimeters surrounding the eight World Cup venues in designated windows before and after each match.
However, at the insistence of Qatar’s Al Thani royal family, alcohol now won’t be sold at all in stadiums.
“These have been long-term discussions, and the overall feeling from everyone involved was that the stadiums need to be for everyone,” a source told Sky News.
“This World Cup is different to others in that a larger number of fans are attending from across the Middle East and South Asia, where alcohol doesn’t play such a large role in the culture. The thinking was that, for many fans, the presence of alcohol would not create an enjoyable experience.
“The fan zones will be different in that some are clearly designated as alcohol-serving, while others are alcohol-free. Fans can decide where they want to go without feeling uncomfortable. At stadiums, this was previously not the case.”
The sale of alcohol is strictly controlled in Qatar and is only allowed within hotel bars and restaurants, away from street view.
But in September, the Muslim nation agreed to relax its alcohol restrictions to allow Budweiser to sell its products outside match venues and in fan zones.
Now, beer will only be available in fan zones after 6.30 p.m., while drunk fans will be sent to special zones to sober up.
The change leaves FIFA in a difficult position with Budweiser’s parent company AB InBev, which sponsored the Qatar World Cup for around $83 million in exchange for exclusive rights to sell beer, according to The Independent.
“AB InBev was informed on November 12 and are working with FIFA to relocate the concession outlets to locations as directed,” AB InBev told Sky News.
“We are working with FIFA to bring the best possible experience to the fans. Our focus is on delivering the best possible consumer experience under the new circumstances.”
The World Cup kicks off on Sunday, when hosts Qatar take on Ecuador at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor.